Epic Route 66 Adventure - July 9th - July 23rd, 2021
Exclusive Travel Partners is offering a Route 66 adventure of a lifetime in the summer of 2021! If you’ve always wanted to drive this historical road, but felt overwhelmed by its scope, we have you covered. We are offering two experience options: travel with one of our agents and a Route 66 historian via motor coach along the historical Main Street of America, or take each day at your own pace with the self-drive option. However you choose to experience this journey, you will get to turn back time as we cruise along this iconic route that was America’s first all-weather highway.
During its heyday in the 1920s and ‘30s, Route 66, also known as the Mother Road, served as the fastest year-round route between the Midwest and the Pacific Coast. Although portions of the historic road were eventually dismantled to make way for superhighways, much of the roadside architecture that sprung up along its path to cater to motorists still exists.
This 15-night guided adventure will take us across 8 states as we travel as much of the original 2,448-mile route as possible. From historic hotels and iconic restaurants to several excursions and tours in between to feed your mind and adventurous spirit, you will come away with a deep appreciation of why everyone should get their kicks on Route 66!
Through our top-notch customer service and this carefully crafted itinerary, Exclusive Travel Partners will make sure you’re treated like a VIP and that you have the trip of a lifetime!
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After check-in at Chicago’s historic Palmer House, you can explore the Windy City on your own. Then at sunset, the group will get their kicks on the sidewalks of Route 66 in Chicago. From the iconic “BEGIN” sign, our walking tour will trace the shared history of city and highway in the Loop and explore some of the famed “Chicago School” architecture along the way. We will enjoy a private dinner, including donut holes and Milk Duds, at Lou Mitchell’s, serving great food to Chicagoans and visitors since 1923.
The drive begins at the official start of the Mother Road at Lake Shore Drive, and we motor down the highway from Chicago to Springfield, the Illinois state capital and home of Abraham Lincoln. We see the only vintage Castle gas station on all of Route 66, and giants all along the way: a huge hot dog at Henry’s Drive-In in Cicero; the Gemini Giant at the Launching Pad (our lunch stop) in Wilmington; the world’s largest Route 66 shield/mural in Pontiac; and the world’s largest covered wagon and Honest Abe statue in Lincoln. While in Pontiac, visit four museums including the Route 66 Hall of Fame and the Pontiac-Oakland Automobile Museum.
Springfield, Illinois is where Abraham Lincoln spent nearly all of his adult life, and reminders of his legacy are all around town. We will walk in Abe’s footsteps at the Abraham Lincoln National Historic Site—two blocks of restored mid-19th Century buildings with the Lincoln Home at the center. As we hit the road, we pass the Cozy Drive-In, the place where they perfected the hot dog on a stick, and a “muffler man” giant on display in front of Lauterbach Tires. We drive the early alignment of 66 through a series of quaint towns, on our way to a 1.4-mile-long stretch of restored roadbed paved in hand-laid brick, originally built in the early 1930s. At Henry’s Rabbit Ranch we will visit a souvenir shop in a replica vintage gas station while enjoying live bunnies and artwork made of VW Rabbits. We cross the Mississippi in a caravan across the Chain of Rocks Bridge and take a ride to the top of the St. Louis Gateway Arch.
From St. Louis, the road hugs rolling terrain through the forested hills of the Ozarks. The limestone mountains are home to over 7000 natural caves, and we will visit one of the most historic: Meramec Caverns, reputed to have been used as a hideout by Jesse James and his gang. Art meets history in Cuba, where 14 murals tell the story of local culture and rural life. We pass the world’s second-largest rocking chair in Fanning and a half-sized replica of Stonehenge in Rolla. At St. Robert, stop for a sweet treat or at least a photo stop at the Uranus Fudge Factory and Sideshow Museum, where they claim “the best fudge comes from Uranus!” We find out why Springfield, Missouri is known as the “birthplace” of Route 66, and we see an incredible display of automobile and gas station artifacts at Gay Parita.
Today we get our kicks on 66 by leaving Missouri, driving all thirteen miles of the highway in Kansas, and heading into the “Sooner” state. West of Joplin, old 66 runs through the former lead mining towns of Galena and Riverton and over the restored Rainbow Arch Bridge. We visit Commerce, Oklahoma, the hometown of Mickey Mantle, and we drive by the Dairy King, an ice cream shop in a former cottage-style Marathon gas station that also sells Route 66 cookies.
South of Miami is a relic of highway history nicknamed the “Ribbon Road,” or the “Sidewalk Highway”: it is a stretch of original pre-1937 Route 66 that is only nine feet wide. The Totem Pole Park is a fanciful collection of outdoor art created by sculptor Ed Galloway. We stop at the Blue Whale of Catoosa and the Cyrus Avery Memorial Bridge in Tulsa. Down the road from the Round Barn of Arcadia is our dinner stop at Pops Soda Ranch, where we can enjoy our meal accompanied by one of the hundreds of soda flavors available on their menu. As the song says, Oklahoma City “looks mighty pretty” at the end of a great day getting our “Kicks on Route 66.”
West of OKC, the 37-mile stretch from El Reno to Hydro is one of the best drives on all of 66. The road was paved in 1933 and runs arrow-straight most of the way, with charming curves and a crossing of the South Canadian River on the ¾-mile-long Pony Bridge. Highlights of the trip through western Oklahoma include a stop for a photo op at Lucille’s, a vintage preserved gas station/store/tourist court, and two excellent museums: the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton; and the National Route 66 Museum in Elk City. In front of the National museum are two giant Kachina dolls that previously beckoned tourists to the old Queenan’s Trading Post. The stunning Art Deco architecture of the Tower Station and U-Drop Inn Café is another must-see photo op, welcoming us to Shamrock in the Texas panhandle. In Amarillo, our dinner from the regular menu at the Big Texan Steakhouse is included, but many visitors attempt to conquer the Steak Challenge (if you finish an entire meal of a 72-ounce steak, Shrimp Cocktail, Baked Potato, Salad, Roll & Butter within an hour, it’s free!)
The morning drive begins with a trip through Amarillo’s Historic Route 66 District along SW 6th Avenue in the San Jacinto neighborhood, lined with antique stores, galleries and cafes. We are free to add our graffiti to Cadillac Ranch, an art installation comprised of ten Cadillacs buried nose-first in the ground. We reach the marker for the Midpoint of Route 66 at Adrian. We go through Glenrio, a ghost town straddling the state line where the decaying remnants of the State Line Café and Texas Longhorn Motel once sported a sign that said “Last Stop in Texas” on one side and “First Stop in Texas” on the other.
Our first stop in New Mexico is at Russell’s Travel Center and its extensive display of vintage cars and toys. Roadside architecture and signage abound in Tucumcari, including the iconic neon at the Blue Swallow Motel, the wigwam entryway at Tee Pee Curios, and the giant sombrero above the front door at La Cita Mexican Restaurant. In Santa Rosa, the Route 66 Auto Museum has thirty privately-owned and fully-restored cars on display. We drive the pre-1937 alignment to Santa Fe, the state capital, where are lodging is at the elegant La Fonda, once a crown jewel of the Fred Harvey chain, on historic Governor’s Square.
We start the day on Route 66, but we divert onto the magnificent Turquoise Trail Scenic Byway and the Tinkertown Museum, a collection of carved figures, animated scenes, and odd collections housed in a 22-room museum with some walls built from 50,000 bottles. Rejoining post-1937 66, we travel through Albuquerque along the 18-mile stretch of Central Avenue and pass through Nob Hill with its post-World War II Streamline Moderne architecture and signage.
The restored KiMo Theatre embodies the Pueblo Deco style, a mix of Southwestern and Art Deco motifs. Enchanted Trails RV Park and Trading Post west of town features a collection of vintage camping trailers. We travel through the Laguna Pueblo and Acoma Reservation and see the “malpais,” pre-historic lava flows that hindered early auto travel. In Grants, the New Mexico Mining Museum recalls the area’s Cold War history as a uranium mining region. We cross the Continental Divide, where the mountain range separates the Atlantic and Pacific watersheds. In Gallup, our hotel is the El Rancho, where all the rooms are named after movie stars that were guests. Once upon a time, many Hollywood westerns were filmed on location in the area.
The rugged terrain west of Gallup delights the eye as we travel through Manuelito and across the state line into Arizona. The Chief Yellowhorse Trading Post beckons to tourists with signs hawking Navajo blankets and sand paintings. The drive into the Petrified Forest National Park features stunning vistas on the way to the restored Painted Desert Inn, built in 1924 and later remodeled by architect Mary Colter during its time as a Harvey House hotel. It has been preserved as a museum and features murals painted by renowned Hopi artist Fred Kabotie.
Overlooks with spectacular views of the multi-hued landscape are plentiful along the 26-mile length of the Park drive. A 1932 Studebaker shows were a section of original Route 66 crossed the park. Newspaper Rock displays over 600 petroglyphs, some over 2,000 years old. We spend the night in Holbrook at the Wigwam Village Motel, a tourist court of fifteen concrete and steel freestanding teepee-shaped cabins arranged in a semi-circle around the motel office. Vintage automobiles are permanently parked throughout the property, including a Studebaker that belonged to the original owner of the motel.
Soon after leaving Holbrook we are beckoned to the Jackrabbit Trading Post by signs telling us “Here It Is!” Next, getting out of the vehicle is a must so we can take our photos while “Standin’ on the Corner” in Winslow, Arizona—such a fine site to see! The art installation on the corner of Kinsley and 2nd streets that pays homage to the Eagles song includes a young man with a guitar as well as a flat-bed Ford. We tour Meteor Crater, the world's best-preserved meteorite impact site on Earth.
Several “ghost” businesses are slowly decaying along the road ahead; one of the more iconic is Twin Arrows, where many of the buildings can be photographed through the fence. We take a walking tour through historic downtown Flagstaff and see the Museum Club, housed in the southwest’s largest log cabin. The fork of a huge tree stump frames the entry. We end the day in Williams, Arizona, the last Route 66 town to be bypassed by the interstates in 1984.
After spending the night at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, we walk a few steps to the depot and listen for the conductor to yell “All Aboard!” The Grand Canyon Railway takes us on a trip back in time on restored rail cars with entertaining musicians and the antics of cowboy characters. Out our windows, the terrain changes from desert, to prairie, to pine. We take a bus tour of the Grand Canyon National Park at the south rim. Our lodging is at the Maswik Lodge, located ¼ mile from the canyon’s edge and nestled in a Ponderosa pine forest.
We’ll have time in the morning for further exploration of the South Rim on our own, then we take the Grand Canyon Railway back to Williams to continue getting our Route 66 kicks. Seligman is the birthplace of the “re-birth” of Historic Route 66—when the highway was de-commissioned in 1985, brothers Angel and Juan Delgadillo started the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona to remind travelers that “life begins at the off-ramp.”
Juan’s family still runs the Snow Cap restaurant, and Angel’s barber shop has been transformed into the Route 66 Visitor Center—one of the best souvenir shops on the highway. The road continues west through the desert and takes us through the Hualapai Indian Reservation. We spend the night in Kingman at the beautifully renovated El Trovatore Motel.
The morning begins with a visit to the Powerhouse Visitor Center and a walk through the upstairs Route 66 Museum. Then we ascend into the Black Mountains on the steep and winding road through Sitgreaves Pass to Oatman, where the burros standing in the middle of the road have the right-of-way.
We explore this former mining town that has been transformed into a Wild West tourist mecca. We lunch at the Oatman Hotel and Café, a circa 1902 building reputed to have been the place where Hollywood stars Carole Lombard and Clark Gable spent the wedding night in 1939. Next we take a side trip to Las Vegas, Nevada. While there, take a pause from gambling and night life to enjoy the Neon Boneyard, where retired neon signs have been collected and restored.
Leaving Las Vegas will be at a leisurely pace, for a morning “sleep-in” after a night of life, or perhaps a little time to lose a few more quarters in the one-armed bandits. Lunch is back on the road at the Wagon Wheel in Needles, California. During the 1930s, travelers often tackled the 150 miles of the Mojave Desert from Needles to Barstow at night to keep their vehicles from overheating. With the comfort of air conditioning we can use the daylight to be astonished at the stark desert vistas. Ghost towns abound along the way, including Goffs, Fenner, and Essex.
Amboy is currently owned by the owner of the California-based fast-food chain Juan Pollo, Albert Okura. Okura has repainted the old motel cabins and has restored the sign for Roy’s Café and gas station. West of town, Amboy Crater rises out of the flat terrain to dominate the view south of the road. The site of Bagdad has only vestiges of a few building foundations, but a photo stop is a must at the Bagdad Café in Newberry Springs, where a movie was filmed in the 1980s. Our oasis at the end of our desert journey is in Barstow at the Ayers Hotel.
The road southwest from Barstow follows the National Old Trails Highway through Helendale and Oro Grande on the way to Victorville, with another fine Route 66 Museum. We descend through Cajon Pass into San Bernardino where we can visit the museum dedicated to the very first location of McDonald’s before it was a franchise chain. In Rialto we see another beautifully restored Wigwam Village Motel.
In Fontana, Bono’s historic Orange Stand is a remnant of many similar roadside stands that beckoned travelers to stop for a cool taste of juice. We continue west into Pasadena, then through downtown Los Angeles to the original endpoint of 66 at 7th and Broadway. After 1936, Route 66 continued, as do we, along Sunset and Santa Monica Boulevards to reach the End of the Trail at Santa Monica Pier. Our final accommodation is aboard the Queen Mary. Happy Trails!
Welcome Care Package, Airport Transfers (Motor Coach Guests), 15 Night Hotel Accommodations, 12 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches, 4 Dinners, Admission to All Scheduled Excursions (For museums and attractions that do not require an admission, a donation from our group will be made), Gratuity For Driver (Motor Coach Guests), Gratuity For Included Meals, Gratuity For Guide (Motor Coach Guests), Parking (Self Drive Guests), Complimentary Trip Protection and a few surprises along the way.
What's Not Included:
Flights (Motor Coach Guests and Self Drive Guests Renting a Car), Meals that aren't already included, transportation for self exploration (Motor Coach Guests), Rental Car (If Needed For Self Drive Guests), Tolls (For Self Drive Guests), Alcoholic Beverages (For Scheduled Meals)
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Will there be a lot of walking?
A. There will be some walking but all will be at a leisurely pace and not for a significant amount of time.
Q. Will my 2 year old enjoy this trip?
A. No, your 2 year old will NOT enjoy this trip. Suggested age for this itinerary is 12 years and up.
Q. Will we be on the bus all day?
A. Each day we will be spending a significant amount of time on the road. We will however be making frequent and fun stops in our travels. Our goal each day will be to make it to our final destination by dinner time. This is a road trip and that might not always happen.
Q. Can you control the weather?
A. No, we can not. It's a 15 night trip. There will be rainy days and there will be hot days. We will do our best to adjust to the elements and do our best to make sure everyone is happy and comfortable.
Q. I have a gluten allergy. Will I be able to eat?
A. Yes. You will get to eat. Every planned meal we will make sure there is something for any guest that has dietary restrictions. Please let your agent know at time of booking if you have any.
Q. There's an excursion that I'm really not interested in. Can I skip it?
A. Yes. We will not force you to do something you do not want to do. However, we cannot make alternate stops to bring you somewhere else. Nor will the excursion be refundable.